Signs says "Detour: To the International Criminal Court follow"

Human rights activists of Amnesty International hold traffic boards showing the way to the International Criminal Court for the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog on March 10, 2024 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The President of Israel is in Amsterdam to open the Holocaust Museum.

(Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)

Instead of Holocaust Museum, Detour Signs Direct Israel's Herzog to The Hague

"How is it possible that such a sacred space is being used to normalize genocide today?" asked one Dutch Jewish organizer behind the protest.

Human rights activists in The Netherlands greeted Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday with large protests and directed him towards the International Criminal Court at The Hague over his nation's alleged war crimes against the Palestinian people in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Herzog was in Amsterdam to attend the opening of the new National Holocaust Museum, but demonstrators said Herzog's presence needed to be challenged given the large scale death and destruction that Israel's military has unleashed in Gaza over the last five months.

As Al-Jazeerareports:

Dutch Jewish anti-Zionist organization Erev Rave, which organized the demonstrations at the musuem’s opening with the Dutch Palestinian community and Socialist International, said that while it is important to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, it cannot stand by while the war in Gaza continues.

"For us Jews, these museums are part of our history, of our past," said Joana Cavaco, an activist with Erev Rav, addressing the crowd before the museum's opening ceremony. "How is it possible that such a sacred space is being used to normalize genocide today?"

A pro-Palestinian Dutch organization, The Rights Forum, called Herzog's presence "slap in the face of the Palestinians who can only helplessly watch how Israel murders their loved ones and destroys their land."

Along Herzog's route through the city, members of Amnesty International—which has accused Israel of apartheid and backed the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which said policies in Gaza may amount to genocide—carried fake detour signs pointing the motorcade towards the nearby ICC.

As the president of Israel, Amnesty International Netherlands said Herzog "is the political symbol of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. It is unfortunate that Herzog was invited after his controversial statements. That is why we are taking action."

Amnesty and other rights groups have documented numerous incidents in Gaza and the West Bank that they say may amount to "war crimes," including the indiscriminate bombing of civilians areas, the use of prohibited weapons like white phosphorous, attacks on hospitals and emergency medical personnel, the blocking of life-saving food, water, and other supplies, and other acts of "callous disregard for Palestinian lives."

At a square nearby the museum where Herzog gave his speech, reportsReuters, demonstrators crowded the streets and chanted slogans like "Cease-fire Now!" and "Stop Bombing Children!" as they held signs that read "Jews Against Genocide" and "The Grandchild of a Holocaust Survivor Says: Stop Gaza Holocaust."

Ahead of Sunday's opening, the Jewish Cultural Quarter that operates the new museum, said in a statement that it was "profoundly concerned by the war and the consequences this conflict has had, first and foremost for the citizens of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank."

The statement said the museum stands "for a just and resolution for all those directly involved" and the impact the ongoing violence and hatred is having beyond the Middle East:

The reduction to black-and-white opposites and apparently incompatible arguments – oppressed against oppressor, good against bad, truth against lie. This polarization has spread hatred toward Jews and Islamophobia. It takes courage to speak out against injustice. It takes courage to recognize that the real world is complex and contradictory, and that our empathy need not be confined to one side.

At the heart of the National Holocaust Museum's mission is the desire to build a just society in the Netherlands by signalling the danger of dehumanizing and excluding those who live among us. That is the message in our presentation, our educational program and our events.

The group said Herzog had been invited to attend the opening prior to the Hamas-led attack on October 7 of last year, but that the fighting since has only further revealed the importance of remembering and learning from the past.

That "the war continues to rage," the statement concluded, "makes our mission all the more urgent."

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